As we start another academic year at Southern Seminary, I always encourage students to begin with the end in mind. I don’t mean the end of the semester, and I don’t even mean graduation. I’m referring to the reason you come to Louisville to pursue your degree in the first place: to serve the church. Our journeys at Southern are not the end of the road, but the starting point. 

Here are a few considerations to begin with the end in mind during the 2019-2020 academic year.

  1. There are pastoral jobs open
    Some students I help in ministry connections have believed a lie that there are few pastoral jobs available. While it may be true that there are difficulties in finding the right fit in ministry, a dedicated seeker will find easily many opportunities to apply for. Last academic year, 690 positions were opened on the ministry connections website. Around 70 percent of these jobs are full time, and 196 of them are senior or lead pastor positions.

    I typically coach people to touch their job search everyday for 5-10 minutes. If they follow my advice, they would not be able to apply for every full-time job on the website during the course of the year! That is just numbers from our site as well, and not taking into consideration the job boards at state conventions or Opportunities exist for those who search.

  2. There are nationwide opportunities

    The network of alumni is one of the highlights of a Southern Seminary education. Due to the vast reach of the seminary across the country, we had job positions open from 46 of the 50 states last academic year.

    Yes, there are people in South Dakota that want Southern alumni to minister to them! Outside of Kentucky our top 10 requesting states were New York, California, Tennessee, Ohio, Texas, Illinois, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina and Indiana. We have the opportunity to send graduates nationwide. Add to that the international opportunities available through the IMB and other connections and there is no reason to sit on the sideline in ministry.

  3. Position yourself for an opportunity.

    While opportunities are open across the country, not every student has the mindset to seize them. Here are a few ways to position yourself now to get ready for moving into a ministry position.

Gain ministry experience now. Open ministry positions typically ask for 3-5 years of relevant experience. Do not assume you have what they are looking for. The NBA draft forecasts talent, but churches and ministry organizations prefer experience. If you want to be the main preaching pastor, they want to see demonstrated preaching experience. The same is true for children’s, youth, worship, and other types of roles. Serve while you are in seminary to commend yourself for future opportunity. 

Be willing to move. Many students I meet with cut out so many open opportunities based on the location parameters they have set on their search. Students who have the mindset to move anywhere do not have difficulty finding churches to talk with. Common reasons students limit their availability are family location, size of church (which often limits to the more established SBC states), and urban vs. suburban or rural environments.  

See opportunity, not obstacles. The last piece of advice is a paradigm shift. As I coach students, I see a tendency for them to look for a “good opportunity.” What they typically mean by that is a church breaking the 200 barrier with a plurality of pastors and no major conflicts. Other job openings are considered obstacles to a steady, stable career. 

What if instead of seeing obstacles, we saw opportunities? Ephesians 4:11-12 says Jesus gives gifts to the church in the form of leaders to partner with the body of believers to see the church mature. What if the best opportunities are the ones that don’t look great. . . yet. Maturing the church is the task God has given you as a leader. Let us see opportunities to exercise our call.